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These Kids Today!

December 28, 2016

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. ~~ Dalai Lama

What a glorious thing it is to experience the essential kindness of human beings — especially strangers, and especially young ones. Last night I was rescued by two such kind, young strangers when I drove into a ten foot snow bank. The driver’s side of my car was so deeply embedded in the snow bank that I had to crawl through the passenger door to get out. I found myself standing on a dark, abandoned street with no houses, no lights and alas, no phone (I had left my cell phone home to recharge). I could not call AAA and I was stranded. Once all of this had hit me, I began to cry. Then I slipped and fell onto the ground. I was a mess.

A moment later I raised my head and through the haze of falling snow I saw a vision of a man approaching with a shovel in hand asking, “Are you ok?” and thought, “Wait, am I in a movie? Is this the part where a savior rises out of the mist?”

I had thought there were no houses on that street, but it turned out that there was one house — just one — set back from the street so that I had not seen it and that from there, a nice young woman named Carly and her boyfriend Alex had seen my car swerve and hit the bank. They promptly came to my rescue. I told Alex that I had left my cell phone at home and assumed that he’d just hand me his phone and say, “Well, call AAA from mine.” Nope. It had not even occurred to the young man to let me sit and wait hours in the cold waiting for AAA. He did not skip a beat and immediately took his shovel and began to dig me out.

Carly and Alex are 20 and when I discovered how young they were I was doubly impressed by how helpful they were. Most people that age are glued to their cell phones with gossip, games and other nonsense and would never have ventured into a snow storm to help a perfect stranger as they did. I thought of how cranky old people enjoy complaining, “These kids today!” to suggest that young people these days don’t work hard enough or show enough respect or enough modesty or enough of whatever it is you happen to want at the moment and how they never realize that the previous generation had thought the precise same thing of them when they were kids. Well, Carly and Alex were kids today and they were damn impressive.

What impressed me most about them is that they did not merely help, but helped with joy in their hearts. Alex must have spent an hour heaving snow from that 10 foot snow bank. He was a strong man, but it’s still hard work to shovel that much snow and he must have been exhausted. Yet he did not complain. To the contrary, he gave me the warmest, sincerest smile every time I asked him how he was. He was clearly working very hard and yet he kept assuring me that it was no problem. He was such a gentleman! Carly was likewise sweet and warmhearted and did her best to assure me that it was no problem. These young people sincerely did not want me to feel indebted or guilty. They had virtually nothing to gain by helping me (they had never seen me before and for all they knew, they’d never see me again), but they helped me anyway — and helped with a smile. Wow! What good people!

I discovered that Carly and Alex have been together since they were 13, which I find very romantic. Talk about childhood sweethearts! I returned to the location tonight to bring them a gift of champagne and Godiva chocolates and while they were not home I took the opportunity to tell Carly’s father that he had raised his daughter right. And that he was lucky his girl had such a nice boyfriend (if her boyfriend is happy to help a stranger like me, then it’s pretty damn certain that he will take care of his future wife).

I think the reason that this encounter has touched me so much is that when we experience human kindness we feel better not only about the world, but about ourselves. When people are good we get to feel better about the whole damned thing. And ain’t that nice?

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